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A Moment for Mental Health

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By Laura D’Alessandro May 2019 Blog

If you’re sitting down to read this, it’s quiet enough for you to take a few breaths and ground yourself. I invite you, right now, to take a few deep breaths. Breathe fully into your belly. Release each breath slowly and intentionally. Breathe deeper than you have all day. Feel your feet on the ground and whatever you’re seated on beneath you. Do this maybe 10 times.

How do you feel? Just notice.

Now imagine trying to take this quick centering break in a hot and chaotic restaurant kitchen, behind the bar on a Saturday night, on the front-of-house floor with 200 reservations, or between back-to-back meetings in the C-suite. Self-care is hard, full stop. Self-care in the restaurant industry is seemingly near impossible.

As a self-care junkie (I’ve lived in LA, what do you expect) I am fascinated by the personal lives of restaurateurs, or the lack thereof rather. If we’ve talked you know, I’ll ask you how you find balance in your life. Some folks have straight up told me balance doesn’t exist. But for addicts in the restaurant industry, it seems like the chaos is a way to escape any sort of possibility of balance, a way for the problem to go unnoticed in a culture that allows those behaviors and sometimes glorifies them. Or at least, an industry that used to.

The striking similarity I noticed among the chefs and restaurateurs I interviewed for our mental health content was this—they not only kicked their dependence on alcohol and drugs, they also became self-care rock stars.

Their relationships to food changed, in a healthy way. They put the energy that had previously kept them addicted to alcohol or drugs toward physical activities like distance running or just hitting the night gym after a shift when everyone else was going to the bar. They became stronger, healthier, and more resilient. They didn’t just stay alive, they lived better.

But as the restaurant industry has seen, perhaps most glaringly in the past year, not everyone stays alive and gets to live better. For so many who have lost their lives, addiction or mental illness is the end. And it leaves many people behind wondering, What could I have done to help? I hope this issue gives you the resources to take just one moment and either give yourself some care or care for someone else in an industry where hospitality is not always given to the ones who need it most—ourselves.